When landscape design historian/educator/author Kathryn Aalto moved her family from Seattle to England several years ago, she remembers looking down on the approaching English landscape as their plane descended and thinking, “How am I going to raise my children here?”
Aalto was used to the more untamed land of the Pacific Northwest. Below her was a highly manicured rolling countryside, the result of several centuries of human domination.
“I needed to get a sense of place,” she told a gathering last night at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, the latest stop on her U.S. book tour. “I discovered that walking was going to do it.”
It did, resulting in part in her new book, “The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh.” In it, she casts a naturalist’s eye on the 6,000-acre Ashdown Forest in southeast England, the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, the setting for Christopher Robin’s childhood adventures with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the magical menagerie.
Aalto talked about the English countryside of bracken, gorse and heather. She talked of the “nibblers” — the goats, the sheep, the Belted Galloways — that manicure the landscape. She showed a photo of the expansive walnut tree that inspired Pooh’s home. And she shared from her research insights into Milne, his son Christopher Robin, and illustrator E.H. Shepard.
At the coast, we start with a Wellness Walk intended to get you off the couch and moving about. In the mountains, we finish with one of the most taxing events around, the half ironman. And in the Piedmont, pick up a paddle and explore a river you may not know.
You know what would be fun this Memorial Day weekend? Take a long trip on a really long greenway.
The Neuse River Trail.
The Neuse River Trail is the backbone of Raleigh’s rapidly growing greenway system. Last fall, the first 6.5 miles of the eventual 27.5-mile greenway opened, running from the northern trailhead near the base of Falls Lake dam downstream to the WRAL Soccer Park off Perry Road. In April, another 20 miles opened, from Horseshoe Farm Park off U.S. 401 downstream to the Johnston County Line. And you needn’t stop there: Another 5.5 miles of paved, 10-foot greenway continues to Clayton.
You know you should walk more. The evidence for what it can do for your health is overwhelming; Walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can lower your blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol, raise your high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes (or help you manage it if you are already afflicted), help you control your weight, put you in a better mood. Everyone from the Mayo Clinic to Martina Navratilova says you should walk.